Woman paid $3.2m after police called real rape a 'hoax'
WHEN an attractive, Californian blonde said she had been drugged, bound and raped by a kidnapper who demanded a hefty ransom, something didn't quite add up.
Denise Huskins reappeared two days later, claiming she had been taken from boyfriend Aaron Quinn's bed in the early hours of the morning.
She was nicknamed "Gone Girl", after the character who invented her own abduction in the popular novel and movie.
Police in Vallejo were openly suspicious of her story, announcing that "none of the claims has been substantiated" and accusing Ms Huskins and her partner of taking "valuable resources away from our community."
The 32-year-old physical therapist, who has won a $3.2 million settlement with the city after her abductor was caught, has revealed what it was like to live through a "nightmare" and then not be believed.
"I don't know how to describe what it's like to sit back silently and watch the world have a conversation ... on the most horrific thing that you've lived through," Ms Huskins told Good Morning America.
She recalled waking on March 23, 2015, to a voice saying: "Wake up, this is a robbery, we're not here to harm you."
Her kidnapper forced the terrified young woman to tie her boyfriend's hands and feet together, all the while "encouraging me, saying, 'You're doing a good job.'"
She said she fully "expected the worst" during her 48-hour ordeal, as her kidnapper opened up about his difficult life. Ms Huskins told him a story of how she had been assaulted in the hope it might protect her, but she was still raped twice by the man, who demanded a ransom of two instalments of $110,000.
Finally, her kidnapper blindfolded her and drove her about seven hours south to her hometown of Huntington Beach, California, Ms Huskins told presenter Amy Robach on the Monday morning show.
"When he opened the car door I thought ... this is it," she said. "Either I'm going to hear a gunshot and that's it, or I'm going to get pushed off a cliff.
"He was guiding me. And I thought I was walking to my death.
"Then I heard a door close behind me, and I pulled up the blindfold, and I saw a toilet and a cement room. And I thought, 'Oh God, he is going to release me.'"
When Mr Quinn went to Vallejo Police Department after Ms Huskins disappeared, he was told, "I don't believe you," by a detective. People immediately began saying he had killed his partner, he added.
He said that if his partner had not reappeared, he "would be behind bars."
The couple received aggressive messages on social media about their "lies", with one writer calling Ms Huskins "such a a horrible person" who was "going to hell."
For some time, the case was labelled too strange to believe, until in late 2015, an astonishingly similar failed kidnapping attempt took place in another California community. It led to the arrest of Ms Huskins' captor, Matthew Muller, a 39-year-old former marine and barred lawyer.
Muller is serving a 40-year prison term after pleading guilty to the kidnapping and faces new charges, including rape.
Investigators found videos of him arranging cameras in a bedroom and then recording himself twice sexually assaulting his blindfolded victim.
Last year in court, a tearful Ms Huskins told her kidnapper: "You treated me like an object, a toy, an animal.
"I still have nightmares every night. Sleep is not rest for me. It is a trigger."
Mr Quinn, who was bound and drugged during the kidnapping, said he "cannot and will not ever be the same."
US District Judge Troy Nunley called the abduction a "heinous, atrocious, horrible crime" as he sentenced Muller, who pleaded guilty.
Muller said he felt "sick with shame" for the "pain and horror" he caused. Shackled and wearing an orange jumpsuit, he looked straight ahead and showed no emotion as he was sentenced.